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What is Neuro Opthalmology?
Neuro Ophthalmology is a specialty that concentrates on the neurological problems related to the eye. Like we all know, the human eye captures the visuals it sees and transmits to the brain to be resolved as images. It is the optic nerve that transmits these visual stimuli and a dysfunction of this entity might cause visual impairment and could even lead to irreparable damage.
Neuro Ophthalmology - When should you visit your eye doctor?
Neuro Ophthalmic issues are quite a concern for doctors; for if not treated on time, it could result in Optic Nerve atrophy (death of the optic nerve). Some of the most common signs of Optic Nerve Dysfunction include:
Reduced visual activity all of a sudden
Double vision and headaches
A less reactive pupil (pupil is the central part of eyeball that allows light to pass through)
Impairment of colour vision (especially inability to identify red & green colours)
Difficulty in seeing light (Photophobia)
Visual Field Defects (visibility coverage)
Did you know?
Stroke can occur in your eyes too. An eye stroke, which typically occurs due to the blockage of blood supply to the optic nerve could at times turn out to be life threatening too.
Neuro Ophthalmic Conditions - And here come the ‘scary’ words
It’s quite natural that you’ll hear a lot of medical jargons in your doctor’s office. However, your doctor will try and explain the details, so you understand the illness/condition well and proceed with the available treatment options. Here are a few common conditions pertaining to neuro ophthalmology:
Optic Neuritis: This is a condition that involves inflammation of the optic nerve. An inflammation could occur due to various reasons – starting from an infection to an autoimmune disorder.
Papilloedema: In this case, the optic disc (the circular area where the optic nerve connects to the retina, at the back of the eye) swells up due to an excessive pressure from inside the skull may be due to a tumor for instance.
Nutritional Optic Neuropathy: Here the damage to the optic nerve is caused by certain toxic substances found in tobacco & alcohol. This could also occur due to lack of nutrients and deficiency of vitamin B-complex and folic acid.
Diabetic Neuropathy: In this, the optic nerve is damaged due to the excessive blood sugar or diabetes. As the disease progresses, the blood supply to the retina gets cut-off, leading to vision loss.
Although, each of them attacks the optic nerve in a different way, the final outcome is eventually the death of the optic nerve, if left untreated.
Did you know?
Glaucoma which is characterized by tunnel vision could damage the optic nerve due to the excessive pressure inside the eye, therefore leading to blindness.
Neuro Ophthalmology Treatments - Pills or prayers?
Your eye specialist will ideally be able to pick up an optic nerve issue during an eye examination. A brain CT scan or an MRI is then typically done to assess whether there is associated damage in the brain as well. While some conditions can be treated with oral medications and injectables, others might require a surgery. Some of the common treatment options would be:
Optic Neuritis: Antibiotics and corticosteroids are used to flush out the infection or suppress the immune disorders from causing further damage.
Papilloedema: Medications are used to reduce the pressure inside the skull. Might require a brain surgery if the increased pressure is due to a tumorous growth.
Nutritional Optic Neuropathy: Lifestyle changes are recommended and vitamin injectables are prescribed.
Diabetic Retinopathy: Since the underlying cause is diabetes, it is essential to treat the diabetes before it further damages the nerve and other blood vessels.
If not detected on time, there’s a good chance for complete loss of vision.